Deadly Data: 2017 metro Chicago drug overdoses killed more than guns

An ABC7 I-Team Investigation
CHICAGO (WLS) -- About 1,500 people died from drug overdoses in Chicago and the suburbs during 2017, according to preliminary reports and data projections collected by the ABC7 I-Team.

That is significantly more than the total number of fatal gunshot victims in metro Chicago during the same period, and is a figure driven largely by a surge in deaths from heroin and opioids including fentanyl, the super painkiller that has become a favorite of drug abusers. There were less than 1,000 gunshot murders in the metro area in 2017.

Southwest suburban Will County reported in with 112 total overdose deaths last year, 82 of them from heroin and fentanyl according to coroner's data, figures higher than the previous year.

There were 291 heroin and opioid deaths in 2016 across Will, McHenry, Lake, Kane and DuPage counties.

Authorities said that the 2017 totals will be slightly increased for the suburban counties. The number would be even higher according to experts, were it not for the widely-used emergency overdose treatment known as Naloxone that is carried by paramedic crews and some law enforcement throughout the area. Naloxone saved several hundred lives in 2017 and may explain why DuPage County's numbers held steady in 2017 at 95, the same overdose death count as 2016.

Lake County officials had a significant jump in drug overdose deaths in 2017. There were 80 deaths reported according to preliminary figures compared with 46 the previous year.

In Cook County, opiate deaths have nearly doubled since 2013. In 2016 there were 1,085 reported by the medical examiner. Figures for 2017 are expected to be at about that level. Local, county and state health officials and police agencies in Illinois have begun efforts to curb the so-called opioid epidemic, from task force operations to hotlines and addiction crisis centers.
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